European Airlines Give Bleak 2009 Outlook

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Airlines are struggling to remain profitable as businesses and consumers trim travel budgets amid the global economic crisis. The world's airlines lost up to $8 billion in 2008, the International Air Transport Association said last week.

Germany's Lufthansa warned of a considerable fall in 2009 operating profit and Ireland's Aer Lingus gave up any chance of a pretax profit as airlines brace for a sharp slowdown in air travel.

Lufthansa, which vies with Air France-KLM to be Europe's biggest airline, posted a 64 percent drop in 2008 net profit to 599 million euros (555 billion pounds), undershooting analyst estimates. It warned 2009 operating profit would fall.

"Given that statements on the duration and extent of the worldwide recession are becoming more and more negative, we continue to see above-average operating risks in 2009," said DZ Bank analyst Robert Czerwensky.

In Asia, Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific posted a record $1 billion second-half net loss on Wednesday and warned the year ahead will be "extremely challenging."

Lufthansa said hopes for improved earnings in 2010 hinged on whether the market started recovering at the end of the third quarter of this year.

Irish carrier Aer Lingus, which fended off a hostile bid by Ryanair, swung to an after-tax loss of 107.8 million euros in 2008 from a year-earlier profit.

It said it no longer expected to post a pretax profit in 2009 and saw fare prices slumping at least 10 percent.

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